Arsenal's Robin van Persie proves the leveller against Stoke City

Arsenal could only draw at what is something of a bogey ground for them, but must still be favourites to finish third, guaranteeing qualification for next season's Champions League, after Newcastle's unexpected mauling by Wigan. Arsène Wenger's resurgent Gunners are now four points ahead of Newcastle, who have a game in hand, and seven in front of Tottenham, who have two more matches than their north London rivals still to play.

Arsenal have won one and lost three of their past five visits here, but it is not only their results that they dislike about the venue. The Stoke fans scorn Wenger and his passing game, and even for the impartial observer it was unpleasant to hear the vitriolic abuse of a manager who has always been a positive influence on football in England, and the booing of young Aaron Ramsey, apparently for having his career threatened when his leg was broken in two places by Ryan Shawcross two years ago.

"The Stoke crowd have a relationship with me, but I don't have one with them," Wenger said. "It's easy to sit in the stand and abuse people – the easiest sport in the world.

"Football has to tackle it. And if you want to stop it, it's easy to stop it. You can isolate every single face.

"Sometimes when I go out on the pitch at the end of the game, and people are angry or hateful, I would like a little picture to send home for them to show their son or daughter, and then come back next week and see if they will do it again."

Asked about Ramsey's hostile treatment, he said: "I don't see what he has done wrong and so I don't think the crowd can be proud of themselves."

In what, as usual, was the ultimate clash of styles, Arsenal stood up for themselves in the physical confrontations, which has not always been the case in the past and, in dressing room parlance, earned the right to play. Even Tony Pulis had to admit that Wenger's side was much the better team, especially in the first half.

"Arsenal's play was smashing, but we were a lot better in the second half and might even have nicked another goal," he said – adding that his players could take "great credit" that none of the top six clubs managed to win at the Britannia this season.

On the subject of the crowd's behaviour, Pulis said: "It's not just Arsène who gets it. I go to other grounds and get abused. You have to accept it as a manager. Should you accept it? I don't know. You'd better ask the police."

The match could be personified as a tale of two strikers. Peter Crouch did his prospects of making the England squad for Euro 2012 no harm at all with his 10th goal of the season in the Premier League and his 13th in all competitions. Wenger had warned his players on Friday about the aerial threat posed by the itinerant beanpole, but the lesson went unheeded when Crouch headed home Matthew Etherington's left-wing cross.

When Arsenal equalised, in the 15th minute, it was almost inevitably through Robin van Persie, newly crowned as Footballer of the Year. The Dutchman's 35th goal in 46 games took the form of a cushioned volley at close range, the chance set up by Tomas Rosicky.

Stoke were without their regular right-back, Andy Wilkinson, and Kieran Gibbs, Rosicky, Yossi Benayoun and Gervinho all took it in turns to exploit Ryan Shotton's fallibility in the role, forcing Jermain Pennant to track back to help out. Shotton, turned inside out, gave way to Matthew Upson 10 minutes into the second half with Robert Huth switching to right-back.

It was midway through the second half that the Stoke fans started booing Arsenal's every pass and turned on Ramsey. It was disappointing behaviour and all the more risible for the fact that many of the same people will probably criticise England's inability to play like Arsenal at the Euro 2012 finals.

Arsenal might have had a penalty after 75 minutes, when Benayoun went to ground inside the 18-yard area, the claim being that he had been pushed in the back by Glenn Whelan.

Stoke threatened to steal it at the death when Bacary Sagna made a last-ditch clearance from Crouch, but such an outcome would have been a travesty.

Arsenal's recovery since the turn of the year probably merits third place in the league, which will be theirs providing they gain favourable results from their two remaining games, at home to Norwich and away to West Brom.

Wenger was talking about the Britannia's hostile atmosphere when he spoke about his thick skin, but he has needed it since January, when three successive defeats had a voracious media, and a vocal minority of Arsenal fans, calling for his dismissal. At least it's all gone quiet over there.

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